“The future of women in STEM is bright but not secure”: Warwick climate scientist
Four female climate scientists from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh — who are currently pursuing postgraduate studies thanks to ‘Women in STEM’ scholarships between the University of Warwick and the British Council — share their experiences and reflections on the International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2022.
To read in-depth interviews with the scholars, click here.
Maria Rehman, originally from Pakistan, is studying a Master’s in Food Security at Warwick, looking into how factors such as climate change and politics impact our food production and distribution.
Although she is fortunate to have supportive friends, family, teachers and mentors, Maria says that “being a woman in a STEM field has its challenges, some of which are mostly rooted in patriarchy no matter what part of the world you are in. The struggle with your confidence and finding your place is known to most women out there.”
Her advice to women and girls interested in science is “to not be afraid to step out of their comfort zone. Opportunities don’t wait for anyone; you have to actively pursue them and that requires stepping into unfamiliar territories sometimes. It’s okay to not know everything and to feel scared.”
Maria says that coming to Warwick has given her opportunities even beyond scientific research, providing her a platform on which to network with other people from diverse backgrounds, giving her confidence in her own capabilities and the drive to help others with their careers.
However, she warns that “the future of women in STEM may be bright but it is not secure […] We need to provide women with the freedom and flexibility to tackle all roles and showcase their true potential. The world will be amazed at what women can achieve!”
Mst Atikunnaher has worked for eight years to enhance the crop productivity and livelihood options of socio-economically challenged coastal farmers of Bangladesh.
She is now pursuing a Master’s at Warwick, which will equip her “to assess the risks, identify opportunities, devise solutions for environmentally vulnerable farming communities through technical and technological interventions, and thus, contribute to implementing sustainable development from ensuring food security to combating environmental challenges.”
She reflects: “Being a mother, wife, and Muslim woman, I would say my journey towards science and innovations hasn’t been smooth enough. My skills and experience make me mentally strong and economically empowered. You have every capability and possibility, just believe in yourself.”
Manpreet Kaur Saini was always interested in science while growing up in India. Originally training in Chemical Engineering, she is now studying Food Security at Warwick — aiming “to seek economic, social, technical, and policy-based solutions to our food consumption problems.”
She wants to focus on implementing green, sustainable business models in fast-moving consumer goods companies, and eventually “help burgeoning food production units in developing countries,” and encourage the “symbiotic development of local communities and companies, the increased representation of women in the sector, and overall improvement of lifestyle through sustainability.”
Manpreet comments: “as a woman in STEM, I am aware of the trials and tribulations that a modern woman is subjected to when she decides on pursuing a degree, […] and step into the male-dominated world. There is a dire need for mentorship programs targeted towards increasing women's representation in STEM. As a Woman in STEM ambassador, I want to lead by example, and thus empower women to fight against the issue that impacts us all — climate change.”
Udvashita Chakraborty is from Bangladesh. She has conducted research in Japan, and now at Warwick, where she is pursuing a Master’s in Environmental Bioscience in a Changing Climate.
“Since my childhood,” she says, “I have always looked up and being inspired by the journey of Women in Science, like the noble laureate Marie Curie. My sincere desire is to engross myself in the world of research.”
Udvashita reflects that “human life is not a bed of roses. Especially when you are a woman from a developing country, the challenges are greater.” She has dealt with gender-based barriers and personal tragedy but overcame it all with the support of her mother and older sister, “who inspired me to continue my studies and have always been my strength.”
To women and girls who love science, she says: “just believe in yourselves, girls, and live your dreams, no matter what the societal barriers are […] we can make a change like lots of other inspiring women scientists. We just need to be focused. Let us add another feather to our wings and fly higher.”
The ‘Women in STEM’ scholarships enable female scientists from selected countries to undertake postgraduate study at Warwick, with funding covering full tuition fees, travel costs, a monthly stipend, and other course-related costs, such as IELTS exam fee, visa application and NHS surcharge.
Applications are currently open for five scholarships available to female students from Brazil and Mexico. Click here for more information.
11 Feb 2022
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Luke Walton, International Press Manager
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